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      House approves 50-cent cigarette tax increase

      The South Carolina House has agreed to a 50-cent increase in cigarette taxes for the second time in two years.

      House leaders lost a fight Wednesday to lower a proposed increase in the state's cigarette tax to 30 cents a pack instead of the 50 cents approved last week by the Senate and by the House a year ago.

      South Carolina's cigarette tax is currently 7 cents a pack -- the lowest in the nation.

      House Speaker Bobby Harrell supported the 30-cent tax hike, saying it would have made it easier to gets the votes needed to override a certain veto from Gov. Mark Sanford.

      But House members rejected the lower increase with a 62-53 vote after more than two hours of debate. Supporters argue the state needs the $130 million the legislation generates for Medicaid programs.

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